ACLU wants ho­mo­sex­ual web­sites in schools

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY CH­ERYL WETZSTEIN

A fierce le­gal bat­tle on free speech and family val­ues is brew­ing about In­ter­net fil­ters used by school ad­min­is­tra­tors to block stu­dents’ ac­cess to ho­mo­sex­ual ed­u­ca­tional and ad­vo­cacy web­sites.

Ho­mo­sex­ual rights groups say school sys­tems can­not im­pose blan­ket bans on ho­mo­sex­ual-re­lated in­for­ma­tional and cul­tural web­sites on school com­put­ers, while val­ues groups warn that the ab­sence of the block­ing fil­ters could leave chil­dren ex­posed to sex­u­ally ex­plicit ma­te­rial.

“There is no le­git­i­mate rea­son why any pub­lic school should be us­ing an anti-LGBT fil­ter,” said Joshua Block, staff at­tor­ney for the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union’s Les­bian Gay Bi­sex­ual & Trans­gen­der (LGBT) Project and leader of the “Don’t Fil­ter Me” cam­paign.

The ACLU has sent warn­ing let­ters to many school districts, in­clud­ing Prince Wil­liam County Pub­lic Schools in Vir­ginia, ad­vis­ing them that In­ter­net fil­ters block­ing non­sex­ual ho­mo­sex­ual web­sites are un­con­sti­tu­tional and must be re­moved to “avoid any po­ten­tial lit­i­ga­tion.”

But David Cort­man, a lawyer with the Al­liance De­fense Fund (ADF), which de­fends tra­di­tional val­ues or­ga­ni­za­tions, coun­ters that “school districts shouldn’t be bul­lied into ex­pos­ing stu­dents to sex­u­ally ex­plicit ma­te­ri­als.”

The ADF re­cently sent let­ters to at least eight school districts, urg­ing them to re­ject the ACLU’s de­mands and re­ac­ti­vate their fil- ters on ho­mo­sex­ual-re­lated web­sites. “We want to make sure that schools don’t un­nec­es­sar­ily cave to the ACLU’s de­mands,” Mr. Cort­man said.

Some school districts, such as Prince Wil­liam’s, have re­moved their LGBT fil­ters. A Mis­souri school district that re­fused to lift its cus­tom­ized “sex­u­al­ity” fil­ter was sued in fed­eral court this month by the ACLU and four ho­mo­sex­ual ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tions.

Mr. Cort­man said the ACLU is not sat­is­fied if schools re­move the block on spe­cific web­sites, such as those for the “Day of Si­lence” and “It Gets Bet­ter” cam­paigns.

In­stead, the ACLU wants schools to re­move fil­ters on “en­tire cat­e­gories” of con­tent, such as “LGBT,” “sex­u­al­ity,” “life­style,” “ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity” and “sex ed­u­ca­tion,” Mr. Cort­man said. If these broad fil­ters are dis­abled, stu­dents likely will have ac­cess to in­ap­pro­pri­ate sex­ual ma­te­rial.

ADF is “adding un­nec­es­sary con­fu­sion to the is­sue,” said Mr. Block of the ACLU. No one is ad­vo­cat­ing “turn­ing schools into porn por­tals,” he said. Schools “can’t sup­press li­brar y re­sources in a view­point-dis­crim­i­na­tory way.”

States are ap­proach­ing the sub­ject of teach­ing ho­mo­sex­u­al­re­lated themes in var­i­ous ways. Cal­i­for­nia this year be­came the first state in the na­tion to re­quire its pub­lic schools to teach stu­dents about the achieve­ments of ho­mo­sex­ual, bi­sex­ual and trans­gen­der Amer­i­cans. “His­tory should be hon­est,” said Gov. Jerry Brown, a Demo­crat.

State text­books now will be re­quired to in­clude in­for­ma­tion on the role of LGBT Amer­i­cans, as well as Amer­i­cans with dis­abil­i­ties, though Cal­i­for­nia’s bud­get cri­sis has de­layed the pur­chas­ing of new books un­til at least 2015.

Ken Black­stone, di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions for Prince Wil­liam schools, said the school sys­tem had re­ceived a let­ter from ADF urg­ing it to re­ac­tive the fil­ter. How­ever, “after thor­oughly re­view­ing our In­ter­net­fil­ter­ing soft­ware,” Mr. Black­stone said, “we de­ter­mined that the LGBT cat­e­gory of the fil­ter could be re­moved” and still al­low the district to meet its le­gal ob- lig­a­tions of block­ing ob­jec­tion­able ma­te­ri­als to chil­dren.

Mean­while, school of­fi­cials in Cam­den­ton, Mo., last week pre­pared their re­sponse to an Aug. 15 law­suit filed against them in U.S. District Court in the Western District of Mis­souri, Cen­tral Di­vi­sion.

Cam­den­ton is block­ing web­sites that sup­port LGBT in­di­vid­u­als and rights, “while al­low­ing ac­cess to com­pa­ra­ble web­sites that take anti-LGBT po­si­tions,” said the law­suit, filed by Par­ents, Fam­i­lies, and Friends of Les­bians and Gays; Dig­nity Inc.; the Matthew Shep­ard Foun­da­tion; and Cam­pus Pride.

The law­suit asks the court to stop Cam­den­ton’s school district from us­ing its “sex­u­al­ity” fil­ter.

Cam­den­ton of­fi­cials re­ceived a let­ter this year from the ACLU about their fil­ter and a small num­ber of ho­mo­sex­ual ad­vo­cacy web­sites.

School of­fi­cials used the process they have in place when­ever a text­book or li­brary book is chal­lenged, said Tom Mickes, coun­sel for the Cam­den­ton school district. “We take a look at it,” he said, “and our track record, at least with these [ACLU] folks, has been that we have opened those [re­quested] web­sites.”

This time, how­ever, school of­fi­cials kept the “sex­u­al­ity” fil­ter in place to pro­tect their stu­dents from in­ap­pro­pri­ate ma­te­ri­als, Mr. Mickes said.

“No of­fense to the Eastern­ers,” he said, “but we want to run our school district based on what our cit­i­zens and the kids in Mis­souri need, not what some­body in New York wants.”

Readin’ and writin’ and sodomy? Stu­dents us­ing com­put­ers in the class­room.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.